Show ContentsTrenoorthay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Cornwall in southwestern England provides the original birthplace of the surname Trenoorthay. As populations grew, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. This was due to the heavy political and cultural influence of the English upon the Cornish People at the time that surnames first came into use. Local surnames were derived from where a person lived, held land, or was born. While many Cornish surnames of this sort appear to be topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees, many are actually habitation surnames derived from lost or unrecorded place names. The name Trenoorthay history began in Cornwall at the manor of Trenowth in Crantock. However, another source claims the family came from the manor and barton of Trenwith, in the parish of St. Ives, Cornwall.

"As its manorial rights have long since been annihilated, Trenwith is now considered only as a barton. This, about the time of Henry VIII. became the property of a family who are said to have taken its name. This family became extinct in the male line in the year 1796, on the death of Mr. Thomas Trenwith, a lieutenant in the navy. This barton is now the property of Mr. William Lander, and other representatives of the Trenwith family." 1

Early Origins of the Trenoorthay family

The surname Trenoorthay was first found in Cornwall where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor of Trenowth in Crantock. They are described as a very ancient and powerful family of Cornwall and the first on record is a junior branch of the powerful Trenowths of Trenowth, John Trenowth of Cornewe and Tillond, whose daughters and co-heiresses married into the Sprys of Cornwall.

"The original name of this family was Baillie. Thomas Baillie, the first ancestor, was living temp. Edward III. His son, Henry Baillie, obtaining from the Duchy of Cornwall, a grant of the manor and barton of Trenwith, near St. Ives, began to write himself De Trenwith." 2

"In the reign of Richard III. a descendant of this gentleman named Henry Trenowith, or Bodrugan, received the honour of knighthood; but siding with that monarch, he was attainted of treason by Henry VII. ; he retired into Cornwall, and endeavoured to conceal himself on this estate. But the place of his retreat was soon discovered by the officers of justice, who secretly repaired hither to seize their victim. But Sir Henry having intimation of their designs, provided for his own security by a desperate effort that almost surpasses credibility. Finding his house invested with men appointed to seize him, he secretly retired through a back door, and hastened towards the cliff, where a boat had been appointed to receive him. But being pursued so closely, as not to have time to gain the proper path, he jumped from the cliff, which was 100 feet high, on a small grassy projection near the surface of the water; and receiving but little hurt, reached the boat, and was carried to a vessel that was ready to convey him to France. To commemorate this fact, the place is still distinguished by the name of 'Bodrugan's Leap.'" 1

Early History of the Trenoorthay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Trenoorthay research. Another 125 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1280 and 1560 are included under the topic Early Trenoorthay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Trenoorthay Spelling Variations

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Trenowth, Trenowith, Trenoth, Trenoith and others.

Early Notables of the Trenoorthay family

More information is included under the topic Early Trenoorthay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Trenoorthay family

A search of the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Trenoorthay: William Trenoth who landed in North America in 1713.

  1. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  2. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print. on Facebook